The Second Sunday of Easter (Quasimodo Geniti)
“Like Newborn Infants”
Philip G. Meyer, Pastor Emeritus
1 Peter 2.2; 1 John 5.4-10
16 April 2023
SOLI DEO GLORIA!
Like newborn infants, Alleluia,
long for the pure spiritual milk of the Word. Alleluia
These words of the Introit’s antiphon come from 1 Peter 2.2. The rest of that verse is this:
that by it you may grow up into salvation—
Seven times the Apostle John uses the term “little children” in this letter. The aged John presents himself as a father, even a kindly grandfather, guiding his little children in the faith. It’s a term of endearment. It was a term of endearment that Jesus used for his disciples [John 13.33]. The Apostle Paul used it as well in speaking with his spiritual children.
Our chapter from John’s first letter begins,
Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ has been born of God, and everyone who loves the Father loves whoever has been born of him. [1 John 5.1]
“Born of God” . . . “Like newborn infants.” This is baptismal language. Our Epistle begins with these words.
For everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world.
One easily senses the theme of these words: Newborn infants; little children; growth. We who have been born of God, that is, born of water and the Word in Holy Baptism, are to grow up into salvation.
Our reading doesn’t mention Christ’s resurrection but it speaks of the fruits of our Lord’s resurrection. It’s about growing up in the faith and the Christian life. It is what our Lord said to Nicodemus in John 3. One must be born from above, born again, born of God [John 3.3].
In the declaration of grace in the Confession and Absolution of the Divine Service, these are the words proclaimed:
To those who believe on His name He gives power to become the children of God and has promised them His Holy Spirit. He that believes and is baptized shall be saved. [LSB, p. 185]
Being born again, born from above, is nothing we do; it is something done in us by God the Holy Spirit.
Once born, we grow by being nourished with our mother’s milk. We are to be like newborns who crave nourishment. We cry out to be fed. As infants feed every few hours an amazing spurt of growth occurs. To the parents the growth doesn’t seem spectacular because they constantly see that infant. Growth seems less perceptible. When I see pictures of my newborn grandson I see amazing changes and growth because weeks go by before I see new photos. Newborn infants have only one job—eat and grow, get bigger and stronger, more alert, more responsive. As infants grow they learn new skills, like rolling over, sitting, crawling, and finally walking, and for better or for worse, talking!
While we take such growth for granted, it really is a miraculous process. Growth happens rapidly and infants soon become toddlers running around the house. Physical, mental, and emotional maturity are the goals. Growing up is hard work for both children and parents.
As children grow they might not always like nourishing food. Our society is awash in junk food, things that have little nutritional value. Children must be fed nourishing food if they are to grow and get stronger and more alert.
John skips forward to adulthood. Such a person born of God overcomes the world. God’s children are capable of great things because God himself works in them. John uses the word “victory,” νίκη, in the Greek, the name the athletic goods company chose for their product, Nike. Overcoming the world almost seems too much because we don’t feel like conquerors in this world. Quite the opposite, we often feel like victims of the old evil foe. Christians are often persecuted and even put to death for this faith. How is it that it we overcome? John tells us that we win the victory when obstacles are overcome. Christians share in Christ’s mighty resurrection victory. Be sure, this doesn’t speak about an earthy kingdom. Jesus never said that. Jesus speaks about his rule in the hearts of his saints. Before Pilate Jesus confessed that his kingdom was not of this world.
There are two opposing kingdoms, Christ’s kingdom and the earthly kingdom which belongs to Satan which will one day vanish. The people in this earthly kingdom oppose Christ and all who belong to him. They persecute those who bear the name of Christ. Yet, even if they put us to death they do not win because Christ’s kingdom is an everlasting kingdom. He has won the final victory over Satan in his death and mighty resurrection.
And so it remains the utmost importance that we grow strong and stand in this faith that overcomes the world.
Who is it that overcomes the world except the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?
The danger is that we allow the unbelieving world to overcome us and drag us back into darkness. The way we live must line up with what we confess. If you say that your are a Christian and yet continue in the sins of this world then you make God a liar. How many Christians have been overcome by the unbelieving world by trying to live in sin and yet profess to live in Christ? If you have hatred in your heart against your neighbor then you have allowed the devil to recapture you. If you continue to sin against God’s commandment about the oneness of man and woman in marriage, you are torn out of God’s kingdom. If you are born of God then how can you continue to live like a child of the devil?
These are sobering words. That’s what John is saying to you, the baptized, those who are born of God. You must have hold of Christ so that you do not fall prey to the enemy again. A Christian must live this faith! He must continue in it if he wishes to be victorious and receive the crown of life.
Your faith must be nourished. You and I must be like that newborn infant who craves the pure spiritual milk of Christ’s Gospel. Faith comes by hearing the Word of Christ. Faith is nourished through the Word and Sacraments. Repentance and faith are the practice of Baptism. Confession and Absolution. In Holy Baptism is the power of the blood of Christ which cleanses our souls. Luther calls baptism the “rosy red blood of Christ.” It is not just plain water but it is the water mixed with Christ’s precious blood.
Receiving Christ’s body and blood in the Sacrament is essential food for your life as a Christian. Here is true nourishment indeed! Here is forgiveness, life, and salvation!
“Like newborn infants, long for the pure spiritual milk, that by it you may grow up into salvation . . .”
Be like that hungry infant who latches on to his mother’s breast for the milk that causes him to grow and get stronger, that pure milk of God’s Word.
Our Epistle reading ends at v. 10, but we should hear the next two verses:
And this is the testimony, that God gave us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. 12 Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life.
Life is only in Christ because he is the true Life. He died but rose again to give us eternal life. To have the Son is to have faith in Christ. Our victory over the world comes because we have faith in Christ, the One who has conquered in the fight. Victory is yours because of Christ. To have Christ your faith must be nourished. You must drink in the pure milk of God’s Word; you must feed on the body and blood of Christ in the Blessed Sacrament. The one who has this faith will live forever in God’s presence.
In the Name of the Father and of the ✠ Son and of the Holy Spirit.